Bears are unique amongst carnivores in being largely adapted to an omnivorous diet, subsisting upon wild berries and tree-nuts, as well as on insects, roots, tubers, rodents, young birds or other vertebrates which they can catch.
Bears have an acutely developed sense of smell but their eyesight and hearing are relatively poor. Mating among the bears takes place in the summer and the young are bore early in the winter in most species while the mother hibernates in a cave or den.
The most popular Indian bear is the Sloth Bear. The Sloth Bear is found in the plains or lowlands of India. Avoiding the Himalaya Mountains, they are nevertheless forest animals, preferring broken rocky hills clad with dry deciduous jungle, and are absent from the open savanna country.
The Sloth Bear has long coarse hair all over its body with a creamy white irregular "V" pattern on its chest. Its huge claws are ivory white in contrast to the black claws of the Himalayan Black Bear. Their mouth and lips are peculiarly modified to enable the animal to feed on insect larvae by suction. Termites form a very significant part of this particular bear's diet. Their nostrils can actually be closed at will and their lips are very mobile and protractible, with a hollowed palate and absence of the inner pair of upper incisors creates a tunnel effect when the animal sucks or blows. This method is used for cleaning out a shattered termite nest and sucking up the insects from their galleries. Sloth Bears do not hibernate in winter, and are believed to form stable or lasting pair-bonds, unlike other bear species.
Asiatic or Himalayan Black Bear
The Asiatic or Himalayan Black Bear is a more handsome-looking species, whose distribution extends westwards from Iran and across the Himalayan mountain ranges. It chains up into China, Siberia, Korea and northern Japan. Typically, they are forest animals associated with mixed broad-leaved deciduous and coniferous forest, but in the northeast they have extended their range down into the tropical forests of northern Bangladesh and Assam. In Waziristan and Baluchistan a unique subspecies, much smaller in size than the Himalayan population, has adapted to live in precipitous mountain country only with scattered juniper and thorn scrub. Adult male black bear, before hibernation in winter, may attain weights of up to 180 kg and a head-and-body length of 16 m. They have a creamy white "V" pattern on the chest but their fur is much shorter and denser than that of the Sloth Bear, with a noticeable lateral crest of longer hairs down each side of the neck. They are well adapted for tree-climbing with naked soles to their feet and depend heavily for their food on ripe acorns, mulberries, apricots and maize cobs according to season and availability. Occasionally, the bears learn to kill domestic stock and become largely carnivorous. They hibernate in winter and two cubs are usually born in December. Studies have shown that the 'hibernation' of bears is not the true hibernation of rodent species, as bears maintain their body temperature even during winter sleep and can easily be re-awoken.
Holarctic Brown Bear
In the inner mountain ranges and higher alpine slopes of the Himalaya above the tree-line are found a smaller paler subspecies of the Holarctic Brown Bear, which includes the North American Grizzly and the European and Russian Brown bears. The Himalayan subspecies lives largely upon grass and herbs during summer and feeds on rowan berries and wild currants and during autumn they feed on starchy roots of wild celery.
Like the Asiatic Black Bear, many other bears learn to kill sheep, goats and even ponies and become addicted to carnivorous diet. Brown Bears hibernate in winter and the female generally gives birth to two cubs in her den during December. A captive specimen of bear has been recorded as living up to 47 years, and they are believed to attain sexual maturity at three years of age.
Malayan Sun Bear
The Malayan Sun Bears are widespread in the southeastern tropical rain-forest and comes from Manipur, Mizo Hills and areas lying south of the Brahmaputra River in Assam. These particular types of bear sleeps by day in a rough nest built high up in trees and lives on termites, fruits and birds.